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Energy Efficiency

Florida Focused on Renewable Future

Partnership Between Fortistar and New River Solid Waste Association To Convert Landfill Methane to Natural Gas

If you’ve ever driven near a solid waste landfill, chances are you smelled it before you actually saw it. For that, you can thank the methane it generates. Municipal solid waste (MSW) landfills are the third-largest source of human-related methane emissions in the U.S., according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), accounting for about 15 percent of total emissions in 2018. But while most people might see a big pile of rotting trash, others see it as an opportunity to turn that methane into fuel. The latter group includes Fortistar, an investment firm, as well as the waste management company, New River Solid Waste Association (NRSWA).

Fortistar and NRSWA recently announced they began construction on a facility in Raiford, Florida that will capture and convert around 1,900 dekatherms per day of landfill methane to renewable natural gas (RNG) – enough to offset emissions from 7,500 passenger cars. Dubbed the New River RNG Project, the facility will collect naturally occurring methane from the NRSWA municipal solid waste landfill and turn it into biomethane. The biomethane will then be used to fuel natural gas vehicles via TruStar Energy, a Fortistar portfolio company.

When the New River facility is running at full output, it will extract 2,500 standard cubic feet per minute of landfill gas and produce 5.1 million gas gallon equivalents (GGE) of renewable natural gas per year, according to Environment + Energy Leader. The project should reduce emissions by 35,000 tons of CO2 per year. It will be the first project in Florida to convert gas from a municipal solid waste landfill to RNG.

“Creating fuel for transportation is a solution available today to significantly decrease human-related greenhouse gas emissions,” said Fortistar President Mark Comora. “NRSWA maintains an excellent reputation in waste management in Florida, and we’re looking forward to working with them to capture greenhouse gases, displace diesel trucks and produce cleaner fuel for a more sustainable future.” 

Fortistar is a private investment firm that acquires and manages companies and projects that address global environmental challenges. The New River Landfill RNG Project is one of a dozen new Fortistar biomethane projects that combined will require nearly $500 million of new capital investment. All of the projects should enter the construction phase over the next year. When completed, these new projects are expected to help produce 120 million GGE of biomethane and reduce U.S. transportation emissions by 2 million metric tons of CO2 annually. That’s the equivalent of taking nearly 435,000 cars off the road.

Municipal solid waste landfills in the United States are like giant warehouses of methane. The EPA estimates that methane emissions from MSW landfills in 2018 were about equal to the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from more than 20.6 million passenger vehicles driven for one year, or the CO2 emissions from energy used at more than 11 million homes.

Landfill gas is typically composed of 50% methane. The methane itself is produced through the decomposition of organic material. Methane is a powerful GHG that traps up to 36 times more heat in the atmosphere than CO2 over the course of a century. The EPA notes that in addition to municipal solid waste landfills, the transportation sector is another contributor to U.S. GHG emissions, accounting for 28 percent in 2018.

The New River RNG project includes the construction of a facility that will use advanced technology to treat landfill gas by removing CO2 and other components, thereby purifying the gas and producing renewable natural gas suitable for pipelines. The process also includes proprietary membranes provided by Air Liquide, a company that provides gases, technologies, and services to industrial, healthcare, and electronics markets. A Vilter Single Screw Gas Compressor at the facility will deliver longer life, higher reliability, and better energy efficiency. 

“This will be the first project to convert gas from a municipal solid waste landfill to RNG in Florida, and we are happy we are able to lead the way,” said Perry Kent, executive director of the New River Solid Waste Association. “New River has always worked to manage solid waste in a sustainable way, and this project is one more step toward New River becoming a fully sustainable solid waste treatment facility.”